Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Gypsy Child Shuffles Between Two Worlds

Part 3 of this story series….

The York Dispatch Newsroom.
York, Pennsylvania.

I am 29.

For the past seven years, I have been caught between two worlds, trying to make one fit into the other and vice versa.

When I chose my career of journalism, I did so with two objectives in mind: One was to write stories that would positively impact communities and the world at large, to use my ethics and relationship with Jesus for the good. The second … was to infiltrate godless newsrooms and reach people who might never otherwise hear from or encounter a Christian.

It’s a noble cause, but with one fatal flaw: it puts me into an environment that isolates me further from Christian community and support.

Because I yearn to prove myself in the most competitive market, I choose to stay in the Northeast. And as anyone who lives in the Northeast knows … it’s not exactly a hotbed of evangelical Christians. In fact, churches there are stoic, stand-off-ish, traditional, clannish. Most of the congregants are either elderly or couples with two kids, two cars, a house in the burbs and a Golden Lab.

There isn’t a place at these churches for someone like me. I bounce from one to another, Sunday after Sunday. I find one problem with one after another: an air of snobbery, or a creepy-friendly-on-the-edge-flirtatious preacher. They hold me at arm’s length when they discover I’m a news reporter. The media is suspect, and anyone who is in the media certainly can’t be a Christian, too.

Plus, these churches all have one common denominator – none of them have young single Christians.

I can’t find a place to land, a safe haven, a place of belonging. I resign myself to the idea that I will have to go it alone, this mission to reach the faithless in the world of journalism.

In the beginning years of my career, I am an effective presence. I am often quizzed about my faith. Sometimes I am openly derided. Sometimes I receive what I perceive to be tougher edits or harsher story assignments from atheist editors. But always, there is a blessing – a person who suddenly agrees to give their life to Jesus … an open respect among my peers for my ethics … a change of heart from the crustiest of bosses.

And yet … I refuse to see, or accept, that I can’t do this journey alone. I am the quintessential Gypsy Child, and true to my roots, I am determined to see it through, just me and God. I tell myself that I don’t need a church, anyway. All I need to do is keep praying, keep hoping, keep believing, keep loving.

But make no mistake. I am living in hostile, enemy territory. I begin to absorb the profanity of my colleagues. I throw temper tantrums as they do over the smallest of things. I think nothing of telling off a boss who has changed the wording in a story. I threaten my sources with certain public exposure if they do not provide me with the information and quotes I need.

In my off hours, I travel to night clubs in Baltimore. I don’t drink, so I’m the designated driver for a van full of my associates. But I dance and flirt and play up my assets. I am living out the sorority lifestyle I didn’t have in college, and I refuse to apologize for it. I can handle it, I tell myself. I can keep my faith and still socialize in this manner.

How do I describe the toll this takes?

The only way I can is to compare this to an undercover cop. You’ve seen Donnie Brasco? Johnny Depp can only play his Mafia part so long before he starts becoming a Mafioso. He is separated from his blue wall of support. He is a lone ranger, alone, walking a tightrope without the net beneath him.

I’m not exactly undercover. I’ve been open about my faith. But the effect of living outside of Christian community does bring me down to the level of my surroundings.

It’s not before long that I sink lower and move the farthest away from the One who desperately loves me.

What does this have to do with a Christian safehouse? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story …

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